Who are the top-five Niners under contract right now?
Recently, we’ve focused on players who don’t have contracts, like Coby Fleener and Carlos Rogers and Alex Smith, to name a few.
What about the players the Niners have currently? Who are the best ones?
Here’s the top-five.
1. Justin Smith – He’s the best player on the team, arguably the best defensive player in the NFL. He’s a great run stopper, plus he can rush the quarterback from everywhere – defensive end, defensive tackle, and standing up, like a blitzing linebacker. Offensive linemen must always double-team him, which opens up everything for the rest of the Niners’ defense. But, he turns 33-years-old next season, so may not remain the Niners best player for long.
2. Patrick Willis – He’s 27-years-old, and he’s the best middle linebacker in the game right now, maybe ever. He’s the fastest, the best tackler, and the best coverer. He can knock a big runner, like Adrian Peterson, backwards at the line of scrimmage. He can catch a quick runner, like Chris Johnson, “in space.” And, he can shadow a fast tight end like Jimmy Graham running routes down the field. Willis is also improving as a blitzer. Of all the Niners, Willis gives the team the biggest reason to expect Super Bowls over the next five seasons.
3. Aldon Smith – As a rookie, he recorded 14 sacks and he played only half of the team’s total defensive snaps. He should be one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL for the next ten years, at least. This past season he benefitted from playing next to Justin Smith, since opponents can’t double team both of them. But as Aldon Smith improves, he’ll make it tougher for offenses to decide which Smith to double team. And ultimately, it won’t matter what they decide, because these Smiths are virtually unblockable, especially in the fourth quarter.
4. Vernon Davis – Perhaps the best blocking tight end in the game, he proved in the playoffs he’s a playmaker in the pass game, too. He’s the Niners’ best player on offense, by far, and nobody they sign or draft this offseason will change that. They just need a wide receiver who can free up Davis – a guy who demands enough attention from defenses so that they can’t constantly double team the tight end, and Alex Smith can throw him the ball even more frequently than he did in the playoffs.
5. NaVorro Bowman – An All-Pro middle linebacker in 2011, he recorded 111 solo tackles, 2nd best in the NFL. He’s just as good a tackler as Patrick Willis, and he’s a better blitzer, too, if you can believe it. But, he’s earning just $490,000 in 2012, and that’s a steal for the Niners, considering he’s their fifth best player, and the second-best middle linebacker in football.